Why I started a CoderDojo

Jan 19, 2015

CoderDojo IndigoI had the opportunity to see James Whelton, co-founder of CoderDojo, speak at the Distill Conference in 2013. What I noted back then was that he made the rest of us look like slackers.

Just about a year after that time, I decided that I could do more. This was bolstered by conversation with a few other parents.

Our children are hyper-connected via their own personal devices. They will never know a world without the internet. They can find the answer to anything in a few taps. They can download a new app, chat with a friend or watch a favorite show at any time.

Yes, that’s all great stuff. And, yes, we’re all learning to balance “screen time” with other developmental and social needs. The dilemma is that our kids are amazing consumers – but most have no clue about what is behind the technology that they use.

Layer on video games. Even the most outlandishly creative ones are only challenging the player to figure out how to pass the next level.

While my kids had dozens of games on their iPads, I thought Minecraft would present more creative interaction. Minecraft is an amazing open “game” where players can make anything with blocks in a 3D world – very much like digital LEGOs. It was neat for awhile, until they discovered “Hunger Games” co-opt style play and started spending time just WATCHING Minecraft videos on YouTube.

Sharing the desire with a few parents to introduce another side of technology to our kids, we realized that we aligned with the CoderDojo mission to create an open community-based experience around coding.  So, we started a CoderDojo at our school.

We want our kids to become creators, not just consumers. We want them to think about what goes into building software and hardware and how the internet works. We want them to make connections with what they are learning in school to how things are made.

We know that it won’t happen solely by meeting for a few hours each month. But, it’s a start. So far we’ve completed a few sessions with just over 20 students ranging from 4th to 8th grade. They are having fun and arrive enthusiastic for what’s next.

While guiding them through interactive projects and building games, we’re having a dialogue about logic, creativity, experimentation and the value of collaboration.  All crucial lifelong skills.

I’d like to acknowledge that CoderDojo is volunteer-based and ours couldn’t have happened without the help and time from other parents and student mentors at Indigo Program.